HPPR Health, Education & Welfare


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Chan Lone / Texas Tribune

Despite lower uninsured rates that in previous eras, Texas still has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country, reports member station KUT. And those rates seem to differ according to racial and ethnic lines, according to new evidence.

Susie Fagan / KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, after Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill reauthorizing the Local Food and Farm Task Force.

Residents of St. John packed a room in late January for an emotional, standing-room-only town hall meeting.

Medicare shakes up joint replacement payments

Apr 12, 2016

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Medicare patients likely won’t notice the difference, but their doctor may have more skin in the game when it comes to their outcomes if they get joint replacement surgery at many of Kansas’ largest hospitals.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced a program that would require participating hospitals to repay some money for knee and hip replacements if the average cost of a procedure is too expensive due to complications.

News 9

Should you for some reason happen to be in the basement of the Oklahoma capitol next Wednesday afternoon, you’re going to witness an impressive sight.

Up to 40 Oklahoma’s educators will arrive ready to fill out applications to run for state elected office, reports News 9 Oklahoma City. The public school workers are running to try in response to deep cuts to education funding in the state, which have gutted schools and left students in the lurch.

AP photo

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a school finance bill in response to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, reports the Garden City Telegram. With its order, the court intends to develop a more equitable education funding system.

Atheists in rural Colorado are pushing back against Christians, who recently made Bibles available for free to local middle and high school students by leaving them on tables designated for pamphlet and book giveaways. In response, the atheists left Satanic activity books on the tables. They also left pamphlets discussing topics like sex in the Bible and problems with the Ten Commandments, according to The Rural Blog.

Elisha Smith of the Center for Rural Affairs recently attended the Midwest Farm to School Conference and brought back a report.

Forest Guardians / Wikimedia Commons

There has been an increase in natural gas pipeline explosions in recent years across the US. For example, a 2010 explosion in San Bruno, California, killed eight people. In response to the problem, the U.S. Department of Transportation has expanded federal safety standards for pipelines, reports The Rural Blog.

Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

While many Texans have signed up for Obamacare in recent years, a new study has found that many of them may not understand what they’ve signed up for, reports CNBC. According to new research, people who get health coverage through their jobs or government-run programs like Medicare are generally familiar with terms like premium, deductible and co-pay. But Texans who buy coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace are less comfortable with these terms.

John Hanna / AP photo

Kansas lawmakers have begun debate on a proposed solution to the state’s school funding crisis. The Kansas Supreme Court has determined that funding for schools in the Sunflower State is not equitable, noting that poor districts often get a raw deal. The court has ordered lawmakers to fix the problem, reports The Wichita Eagle. Debate started last week on a bill that would reshuffle K-12 money in a way supporters hope will meet the court’s order for more equitable funding.

CDC / dailymail.co.uk

The number of people dying from heart disease has been falling, according to a new study reported in The Daily Mail. Heart disease is the world’s leading killer. Rates have dropped significantly in many parts of the US since the 1970s. But the rates of decline vary dramatically according to geographical area. Counties in the North are seeing the fastest declines, sometimes dropping by as much as 84%.


Many states have recently limited prescriptions for opioids, after an increase in overdose deaths has rocked rural America. But the new opioid limits are putting small town doctors in an unenviable position. Physicians must now refuse to prescribe painkillers to patients who actually need them, reports The Rural Blog.


In 2015, the first full year after Texas enacted tough new regulations on abortion clinics, there were 9,000 fewer abortions performed in the state, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The Supreme Court has called the tightening of abortion access in Texas a “controlled experiment” for the enacting of similar laws in other states.

LM Otero / AP photo

State health officials have confirmed the first case of the Zika virus in the state of Kansas. The patient is an adult in southwest Kansas, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the case involves a person who had traveled to a country with “local Zika virus transmission.” The patent’s diagnosis was then confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.


As rural hospitals continue to close at an alarming rate, more and more residents in the heartland are coming to rely on air ambulances. Being airlifted to a hospital can mean the difference between life and death. But being flown to the hospital can come with a hefty price tag as well, reports The Rural Blog.

Rural Blog

Struggling rural hospitals on the High Plains might be able to learn from a facility in Fredericksburg, Texas. The rural hospital there has gone in recent years from the brink of closing to become a thriving health center. In 2009, patient satisfaction and employee satisfaction were very low. Then the death of a 13-year-old at the hospital lead to systemic changes, reports The Rural Blog.

Kansas City Star

Parents and teachers descended on the Kansas capitol in Topeka this week in support of Kansas public schools, reports The Kansas City Star. “Make no mistake about it, public education is under attack in Kansas,” Rep. Don Hineman, a moderate Republican, told the crowd. Sen. Laura Kelly, a Democrat of Topeka, encouraged participants to talk to their legislators and to vote in the 2016 elections.

Issue Brief: E-Cigarette Policy, Regulation and Marketing

Mar 11, 2016

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Issue brief #3 in a series of three on e-cigarettes.

Despite a sharp rise in the use of e-cigarettes and unanswered questions about their potential health effects, there is currently little regulation at the state or federal levels of their sales and marketing. While Kansas and other states explore various approaches to regulation, some Kansas communities have taken action to limit their use in public places. The Kansas Health Institute (KHI) has released the third and final issue brief in the series on e-cigarettes, entitled, E-Cigarette Policy, Regulation and Marketing.

In 2012, Kansas state legislators enacted a ban on the sale to and possession of e-cigarettes by minors (48 other states and the District of Columbia have done the same). In 2015, Kansas policymakers approved a sales tax on e-cigarettes at the rate of $0.20/milliliter of e-liquid (HB 2109), which goes into effect July 1, 2016.

University of Texas/Texas Tribune

Texans’ opinions about guns appear to be at odds with the laws of their own state, according to new polling data. The Texas Tribune reports that Texas voters overwhelmingly support mental and criminal background checks on all gun purchases in the US. That includes firearms sold at gun shows and private sales.

Wichita Eagle

There’s a new statewide push in Kansas to help students explore potential career paths earlier, reports The Wichita Eagle.

A newly developed program includes internships, job shadowing and other real-world experiences as part of students’ coursework. These extracurricular activities emphasize individual plans of study that can help prepare students for the real world. The program is part of a nationwide trend by schools to look for ways to get students first-hand looks inside potential careers.

D. Clow / Tim Archer / Tom Pennington / Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

Birth certificates are now the official determinant of a student-athlete's gender for playing high school sports in Texas, reports The Texas Tribune. The new rule was passed by Texas superintendents of member districts with a hefty majority of 586 votes for and only 32 against.

The Denver Post

Colorado and Nebraska are the only states in the HPPR listening area where you can’t be pulled over specifically for not wearing your seatbelt. But in 2015, Colorado saw its deadliest year of traffic fatalities since 2008. In response, traffic safety professionals from around the nation convened in Denver last month, reports The Denver Post.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma’s massive budget crisis means state legislators have begun talking about consolidating school districts as a way to save money. Oklahoma has 516 districts, reports member station KOSU. That is, admittedly, an abnormally high number of school districts compared to other states with similar student populations. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the state is spending more money.

Esther Honig / Heartland Health Monitor/KHI

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Editor’s note: This story was revised at 1:30 p.m. March 1, 2016, to include information about services available at federally qualified health clinics in Kansas.

At a domestic violence shelter in Hays, director Tiffany Kershner sits with a client in a small meeting room.

JAMA/Rural Blog

As rural hospitals continue to close at the rate of one per month, rural areas in the US are also experiencing a dearth of physicians. One reason for the shortage: Single physicians and married physicians with a highly educated spouses, are less likely to work in rural areas. However, a physician with a spouse who is not highly educated is more likely to be found in farm country. But these physicians are becoming more rare every year, says The Rural Blog.

Katharine Du / NPR

Getting too little sleep has long been associated with overeating and increased body weight. But Prairie Public News recently asked why. The answer appears to be that skimping on sleep can disrupt our circadian rhythms. Hormones associated with hunger and being satisfied are also affected.

Chris Neal / AP photo

A new Kansas bill has teachers up in arms, reports The Wichita Eagle. Educators say the potential law is an attack on public schools.

Texas Policy Evaluation Project and Whole Woman’s Health / The New York Times

No one questions that the number of abortion facilities in Texas has dropped in recent years. In 2013 the Texas legislature passed a law that, among other things, required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law led to the number of clinics in the Lone Star State being reduced by half. Challengers to the law contend that the law is unnecessary and draconian.

Patrick Sison / AP photo

Saving your child from peanut allergies could actually be really simple, reports Quartz.com. The prevalence of the potentially life-threatening allergy  has risen more than 300% in the US since 1997. But last year, a team of British researchers struck on a promising method.

Center for Rural Affairs

Over the past six years rural hospitals have been closing at a rate of nearly one per month, according to the Center for Rural Affairs. A hospital closure can be very hard on a rural hospital. But it doesn’t have to be this way, says the CFRA.

The closings have been especially widespread in the 18 states that have refused to expand Medicaid. Those states include Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.